You've probably heard us use the term "rooting" quite a bit, especially if you've been following us at Kabuki for awhile. You may have wondered, what does that mean, what are we looking for when rooting, and why do we focus on it so much?
First off, "rooting" means we're trying to maintain a tripod stance, maintaining three points of contact in the foot with the floor:
1. Center of the calcaneus (heel)
2. Head of the 5th metatarsal (under pinky toe joint) and
3. Head of the 1st metatarsal (under big toe joint)
Maintaining all three points of contact, means being able to activate all the intrinsic muscles of your foot to maintain your stability, or having an "active foot"- that is what's going to affect what happens up the chain, starting at the feet to ankles, knees and hips.
Now, let's take someone like Coach Brandon who has 'pes planus' aka flat feet. A common cue for his type would be to "grab the floor with your feet". But watch out. That cue can cause common faults you want to watch out for, such as trying to grab the floor with your toes. You might feel like you're grabbing the floor and having a more 'active foot'. But when that happens, you'd actually lose contact with the floor under the 1st metatarsal, so you're losing that tripod stance, making yourself more unstable.
So we like to use the term rooted. Think about planting your feet through the floor. Like the roots of a tree, don't go straight down into the ground, they go down and then they expand outward. Then if you try to pull that weed or tree, it's hard to come out of the ground because its roots are embedded into the ground, right?
Same thing here! Your feet are rooted into the floor to support everything else up the chain. A few cues we like to use, to get people to feel that bottom of the foot and create an arch (when you don't have one naturally) is by sliding your big toe knuckle towards the heel. And relax. (This is also an exercise referred to as "short foot". So if you've seen that exercise, it's the same intent.) The goal here being trying to get the muscles of the foot engaged.
Another cue is stacking your ankles. This is more clear to see,
especially in a squat assessment. So first, just standing, it's a little subtle, but you can see when the ankles are stacked over the heel, it creates an arch with your foot without losing three points of contact in your feet.
So let's say you get underneath the squat rack, unrack, and without any rooting cues, squat down. And if you're someone who naturally has flat feet, (which is about 30% of us) your feet will immediately want to start falling inwards, your ankle will want to fall in, your heel might want to slide inward a bit, even the outside of your foot may want to leave the ground. But now, stay in your imaginary rack, and this time, you'll squat down, but I'm going to have you stack your ankle, and think about planting your feet into the floor. After this imaginary exercise (but still give it a try in real life) you'll see there's less movement happening from heel and ankle. A few drills that you can check out in our movement library, is the banded ankle stack.
Why is rooting so important?
Keep in mind that your foot is the platform in which the rest of your body works and functions optimally. The majority of people look past rooting, seeing it as one of those minute details that doesn't matter as much. They'll end up chasing TFL pain, movement dysfunction, knees caving in, or whatever it may be. But it turns out- it actually had to do with rooting your feet. This is one of the big primary things we need to focus on and develop, because otherwise the rest of your body won't be functioning optimally.
Rooting is also important, especially if you're someone who can't feel your glutes in the squat, deadlift, or any close chain exercise involving your feet. This is important because of what's happening at the big toe. During normal activities, or just walking around, your big toe is critical in being able to get you to push off. That is its role. When you have optimal greater toe function, you are able to walk more efficiently in order to get push-off in that stance, and that is what activates the glute in walking. Now let's add that to the squat. We want to coach being able to feel that same pressure pushing into the ground, with that greater toe to help have an effect on your glutes.
So if you are doing rooting drills correctly, one thing that you should be trying to feel is the activation of everything up the chain. If you are doing them correctly, we can assure you that you will start feeling your glute activate, and carrying it over into your loaded movements.
Check out the rest of the library for specific rooting drills!